Jessica sizing up the options
All the big names you would expect to see featured in the early entries for Leopardstown's Christmas Festival and among them was Horse of the Year, Sizing John.
Trainer Jessica Harrington opened up her gates to the racing media yesterday to help launch the four-day fixture later in the month but for the same reason that Sizing John didn't go to Haydock last month, Harrington will be putting her Gold Cup winner first before confirming him for the Leopardstown Christmas Chase, formerly known as the Lexus.
The Grade One three-mile chase at the Leopardstown Festival looks top of the agenda for the quirky Yorkhill, however, according to Willie Mullins, and that would be a Festive treat to savour if he and Sizing John were to clash in a race that could also feature Noel Meade's improving second-season novice Disko in what is an impressive list of 26 names.
The likes of Killultagh Vic and Edwulf are also included as they are nursed back following injuries.
Harrington admitted yesterday: "I love going to Leopardstown at Christmas, they nearly always have as good a ground as you will get anywhere at that time of year and I'd love to run Sizing John at Leopardstown. But we will do whatever is good for the horse."
For the champion trainer, the biggest headache is often how to split up his big guns and that is emphasised by the release of the entries for the four days yesterday.
Tingle Creek absentee Douvan, Sunday's emphatic Hilly Way Chase winner Un De Sceaux and the impressive Min are his three entries in the Grade One feature steeplechase over two miles on the second day at Leopardstown.
Mullins wasn't fully happy with Douvan last week but he looks the most likely from that Grade One winning trio to go to Leopardstown for the premier two-mile chase of the Christmas period.
"I wasn't going to send Douvan to Sandown and ask one of my staff to make a decision for me and I wasn't going to go over that early myself. We have the whole season to go and the Tingle Creek is neither here nor there for us.
"Hopefully he'll be all right at Christmas. I just hope that everything stays right and if he does we'll try and get the next opportunity to run him," Mullins said.
The lowest entry for the seven Leopardstown Grade One races was in the Ryanair Hurdle but that could still be a fascinating event with Faugheen still among the possibilities.
Like Harrington with Sizing John, Mullins is mulling over his options for Faugheen, whether or not he'll take in Christmas as well as the Dublin Racing Festival in February before Cheltenham and Punchestown in spring, but he is the stand-out name for the feature race on the final day, a race in which Yorkhill also has an entry.
Meanwhile, a Cheltenham Festival winning jockey for Mullins, Mikey Fogarty, yesterday confirmed his retirement from the saddle at the age of 27.
The Wexford native hadn't ridden since the Punchestown Festival and has retired, stating: "I just didn't want to do it anymore."